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White House Oversight of Illness Investigation

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 1998 – Although a presidential advisory committee filed its final report last fall, the White House will continue monitoring DoD's investigation of Gulf War veterans' illnesses and chemical and biological warfare events during the war.

President Clinton announced the creation of a special oversight board Feb. 24 and appointed former New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman to chair the board. Rudman previously served as a special adviser on Gulf War illnesses to Defense Secretary William Cohen. In that capacity, he reviewed findings in the DoD investigation.

The new board will continue the review of the Pentagon's investigation led by Bernard Rostker and recommend additional avenues of investigation. The board will submit an interim report within nine months of its first meeting and a final report within 18 months -- unless the president directs otherwise -- and then disband.

Although DoD investigators sometimes clashed with the presidential advisory committee over methodology and findings, Rostker said he supports such oversight and cross flow of ideas. He also lauded "some members of Congress, some members of the press and some veterans groups" for encouraging and supporting the DoD investigation.

In conjunction with the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments, DoD is sponsoring more than 100 research projects to determine causes and treatments for the range of reported illnesses.

"I wish I could say clearly, 'This is what made the veterans sick, and we know exactly how to treat them,'" Rostker said. "It is very elusive."

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